In 1835, the United States federal government and a small group within the Cherokee Nation signed the Treaty of New Echota. Buried within a document that was largely about ceding Cherokee land to the United States was a clause that allowed for a tribal delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. And now for the first time, the Cherokee Nation is testing the government’s commitment to that promise by appointing a delegate.
The Guardian reports that earlier this month, Chuck Hoskin, Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, appointed Kimberly Teehee, the Nation’s vice president of government relations, as a delegate to Congress where she would represent the tribe’s nearly 300,000 citizens. This is significant because, according to The Guardian:
While the Cherokee Nation is self-governing, running and managing its own schools, hospitals and infrastructure programs, it relies on grants from the government. That funding comes from the “discretionary funding” portion of the budget. But the amount of discretionary funding can wax and wane depending on negotiations between Congress and the president, or the state of the economy.
Currently a main path to introducing legislation is through approaching sympathetic members of Congress. With a delegate, the Cherokee Nation would be able to bring in their own bills, which could potentially lead to a vote in Congress.
Although Teehee has been appointed as a delegate by the Cherokee nation, elected officials must now determine if the federal government will recognize her. “The House could decide on its own that it is able to appoint a Cherokee delegate, but members could also deem that the Senate, and perhaps even the president also need to agree,” writes The Guardian.
Hoskin said in an interview published on Tuesday (October 15): “We’re sort of standing outside of the Congress and advocating for our needs and for the government of the United States to live up to its obligations. [Now we could be] be inside Congress, and do what our ancestors contemplated when they negotiated those terms.”